By Luke Lombardi
When an athlete considers the ideal final week of the season, they often think of dramatically finishing, breaking records and ending the season on a good note. On Nov. 13 and 14, against both Canisius and Niagara, the Rider women’s volleyball team did just that.
The first record to fall was the single-season school record for most Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) wins in program history.
The match started on a low note for the Broncs. They quickly found themselves down two sets to none, with Canisius winning the first two sets 25-15 and 25-19.
“We did not start out the match the way we wanted to, obviously, getting down 0-2. But their resiliency is something they’ve shown all year and they’re a good group, especially when I get on them and pull them back into the hallway and kind of give it to them a little bit,” Head Coach Jeff Rotondo said.
Once the third set started, the team came out looking motivated. They won the third set 25-19 and the fourth 25-21. Rider started the fifth set hot taking an early 6-3 lead. From there, Canisius fought back, making it tough for the Broncs.
In the end, Rider was able to persevere, complete the reverse-sweep and secure the record with their 13th victory in conference play.
“The 13 wins, that’s a credit to them. They’ve been working hard at this going back to last August when we were on campus,” Rotondo said. “I know we won it last year. But they’ve been playing volleyball for 18 months now and it’s a credit to them.”
Junior opposite hitter Morgan Romano led the team with 26 kills, while senior setter Anilee Sher, who was named MAAC Player of the Week, had 39 assists on the night.
The second match of the weekend against Niagara was just as important. The Broncs had some extra motivation for the final match of the regular season as it was Senior Day and a time for reflection.
“We grew up together for sure. When we came in, it wasn’t the best program or the easiest place to be. We took each other under our wings and became family,” Sher said. “Playing with them today and having such a good match with them was really special.”
Unfortunately for Rider, it started off slow again. Niagra put the Broncs back in a familiar spot as it took the first two sets with scores of 26-24 and 25-18.
The Broncs took a big lead early in the third set leading 6-1 before Niagara closed the gap. However, Rider was able to power through and win the set 25-20.
In the fourth set, neither team took more than a three-point lead. The Broncs came out on top again winning the set 25-22. The crowd started to come alive cheering on Rider.
Another record was within reach. Before this weekend, the single-game assist record of 66 was held by Jennifer Lane during a match in 2004. Rider dominated the fifth set winning 15-7 with Sher breaking the assist record with the final two points, ending the match with 68 assists in her final game at Alumni Gym. The win is also their second straight reverse-sweep.
Sher said, “I’m extremely surprised, I didn’t think I got 68 assists but knowing it’s my last game on home court, it’s awesome. All credit to the hitters because they did all the work.”